In 1939, Claudio Arrau signed off with ‘Heil Hitler’

Los Nazis en Chile, a book by the Chilean philosopher Victor Farias recently translated into German, is highly critical of the great pianist for remaining in Germany until 1939 and making all the appropriate noises to appease the authorities.

Arrau, 36, was married to a German mezzo and had two small children. His primary concern was the get his family out to his native Chile before Germany started a war.

He was never sympathetic to Nazi aims.

 

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  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Victor Farias made a career in deconstructing Martin Heidegger’s philosophy, which he called “inherently fascist” (that is more or less like saying that the law of gravitation is dictatorial), and after he had drained all he could of that “scandal” he went further with another “scandal book” calling extreme-left- winger Salvador Allende for anti-Semite and Nazi-sympathizer. A real intellectual of our times!

    • DAVID says:

      With all due respect, with the recent publication of the so-called “Black Notebooks” (the published volumes of “Ponderings”), the positions of both Farias and Faye have been pretty much validated, as even some devout Heidegger scholars have become rather uncomfortable with Heidegger’s political leanings. I would also suggest looking into Peter Trawny’s work.

      • Pianofortissimo says:

        I’m not “defending” Heidegger, especially not the work done in his declining years. By the way, every conclusion is possible when the devil reads the Bible. I just dislike deeply of people who make an academic career destroying other people’s work and reputation, not producing anything new or good.

    • sam says:

      Who reads, much less defends, Heidegger today, aside from deconstructionists?

      • John Borstlap says:

        My PA occasionally reads a chapter in Heidegger’s “Sein und Zeit” because it makes her feel in touch with the higher things, she says. In spite of her not having any knowledge of German, it has some influence on her behavior, she is more absent-minded than usual in the mornings and thinking of the spelling mistakes in her letters, these higher things must have carried her away.

  • John Borstlap says:

    A painful signal of how people try to survive under such pressures.

    It made me think of Freud, whom international organisations tried to rescue from nazi Vienna. He was allowed to leave the coutnry, but he had to sign a letter dictated by the gestapo that he had been treated exceptionally well, which he duly signed, adding: ‘I can wholeheartedly recommend the gestapo to everybody’.

    • Sounds in retrospect like an exceedingly subtle and clever response from Freud. Reminds me of Boulanger’s response to a pianist’s recital. ‘You’ve done it again!’

      • John Borstlap says:

        Great…. there is the story of Berlioz’ reaction after a performance of a particularly bland piece of composer X: ‘It’s incredible to think what people can do with such material’.

  • hans says:

    Arrau´s wife was jewish, he was under massive pressure.
    He never sympathized with the nazi ideology.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Ruth Schneider was not, unless you have evidence to the contrary, Jewish.

      • Simon Scott says:

        With a name like Schneider there must be something of Jewish origins?

        • John Borstlap says:

          Not necessarily. I know somewone who’s called David Rosenbaum who is not Jewish, in spite of regularly visiting the synagoge.

        • GFJ-D says:

          What kind of a comment is that ? Anyway, she was not. Arrau married Ruth Schneider in 1937-Germany. Arrau took part in many concerts in NSDAP-Germany, associating himself with nazi propaganda. He in fact remained quite a long time in the country, unlike Hermann Scherchen or Adolf Busch. For instance, Arrau’s trio (mit Hermann Hubl + Hans Münch-Holland) performed on January 25, 1940 in the Bach-Saal (Berliner Konzertgemeinde / Kraft durch Freunde) ; Arrau played Brahms’2 piano concerto with GMD Fritz Zaun (Städtisches Orchester Berlin) on March 1, 1941, in the Hochschule für Musik which was, by then, “judenfrei” etc. Arrau never protested against nor commented such facts, later in life. His relationship with Pinochet was very ambiguous, too. Some archives are easy to access. Todo lo mejor

          • Douglas Cairns says:

            “His relationship with Pinochet was very ambiguous.” Could you elaborate on this statement? As I understand it Arrau refused to return to Pinochet’s Chile for many years, though he did go back in 1984.

          • It is notable that although Arrau was deeply attached to his homeland, he refused to play in Chile for 17 years to protest the social democratic government of President Salvador Allende, but did return to Chile at age 81 in 1984 for a tour during Pinochet’s rule. (Pinochet ruled for another 6 years after that.) During the tour, Arrau refused to discuss his stand toward Pinochet and avoided mention of the general or his government. His views thus seem to tip to one side even if he didn’t like Pinochet’s regime and professed a concern about human rights.

            Arrau was a member of a prominent Chilean family, which might have aligned him with the oligarchical nature of Latin American history. In 1909, Arrau played as a child for Chilean President Pedro Montt who granted Arrau a ten year grant to study in Germany. Montt was known for ignoring serious labor and social problems, and for the Santa María School massacre of striking miners, along with many of their wives and children, by the Chilean Army in 1907. The number of victims is estimated to have been between 2,000 and 3,600. One might have reasonable questions about the political perspectives of a family that would turn to Montt for a scholarship for their child, and how this family background might have later affected Arrau’s own views as an adult.

            Arrau’s vacillating and unclear stance against Pinochet falls into a pattern of Latin American history we see to this day. Allende was murdered, and the fascist government of Pinochet installed through the efforts of the CIA who turned Chile into a client state of the USA. This very likely played a role in Arrau’s cautious approach, something almost obligatory for prominent figures in classical music regarding US policies.

            Now let the denials and rationalizations continue………..

          • John Rook says:

            Allende committed suicide. Even the left admits it.

          • Even if he shot himself as some claim, it was just murder by another means since he knew what he faced if he remained alive. Pinochet ordered an all-out attack on La Moneda. The palace was bombed by fighter jets and the air thick with tear gas and smoke as the building went up in flames. Of course, those actions are perfectly acceptable to the FoxNews/Breitbart, BNP/Brexit/Trumpistan/AfD/Austrian Freedom Party crowd. Sadly, all part of a new form of Cold War fascism promoted by the USA and that has long been a norm in much of Latin America.

          • Pianofortissimo says:

            Mr Osborne: Sorry, too much. The year was 1973, and then there was no Breitbart, the current politicians of AfD and of the Austrian Freedom Party were children or unborn, and Donald Trump was a young, ambitious real state entrepreneur. And Hitler was dead since 28 years (you surely forgot to mention him).

          • GFJ-D says:

            Thanks for your answer. I guess we pretty much agree. Now, regarding that “His relationship with Augusto Pinochet was very ambiguous” sentence – well, too bad some people didn’t grasp the irony, there. My mistake. I intended to say his relationship with Goebbels was not ambiguous. On the other hand, there was no need for you to be sarcastic (“the denials and rationalizations etc”).

          • Saxon Broken says:

            William writes: “Arrau refused to visit Chile while Allende was President”.

            Er…Allende was President only from 1970 to 1973. Arrau only went back in 1981 when, an old man, he feared he might never otherwise have the opportunity to see Chile again. And he refused to discuss politics when he did return.

            And while Pinochet’s regime was undoubtedly anti-democratic and resorted to the casual murder of his political enemies (or anyone deemed socialist or undesirable); Allende’s government caused a constitutional crisis by ignoring the law and also the fact he had lost his majority in the Chilean parliament by 1973. These are hardly the actions of a social-democrat.

          • Araragi says:

            Many Jewish and German names overlap because of the similarities between the Yiddish and German languages. While some surnames are almost always Jewish, others can go either way. Schneider is an occupational name that means tailor in both Yiddish and German.

          • Bernard Caplan says:

            You must mean Kraft durch Freude even though I can still recommend Kraft durch Freunde.
            Kraft durch Freud would be another matter entirely.

          • GFJ-D says:

            mwhaha, “Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewussten” All apologies. You’re very right. And thanks a million times for this.

        • John Rook says:

          Why? It just means ‘Tailor’.

        • Fan says:

          I don’t think Romy Schneider was Jewish.

  • Tamino says:

    You wouldn’t sign a letter to German authorities in 1939, desperately trying to make your escape from the country with your whole family, with: “may Hitler burn in hell”, or would you?

    • John Borstlap says:

      It has been tried various times, apparently without success.

    • sam says:

      No, but you didn’t need to sign “Heil Hitler” either.

      A “mit deutschem Gruß” would’ve done.

      • Robin Worth says:

        Are you sure of this?

        To be sure, the deutscher Gruss was the Nazi salute, which later became, by decree, the military salute: but by 1939 you might be in trouble if you did not sign “Heil Hitler” on official correspondence

      • Tamino says:

        Armchair experts please step aside.
        These are irrelevant differences. Just give me the damn visa for the whole family. Paper is patient.
        Maybe you have to have lived through such times to understand.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      To me it seems as if armchair moralists haven’t had children yet.

  • fflambeau says:

    One of the greatest pianists of all time who unfortunately, happened to live during the Nazi years, although he was an established pianist by the time of the Nazi takeover of power. He was friends with many notable Jews including Daniel Barenboim (who idolized him), hired in 1941 a Jewish publicist/manager (Friede Rothe-Sterling as his artistic representative, an association that was to last for life. Arrau also played and recorded most of the works of Mendelssohn, whose music was of course banned by the Nazis.
    He played Mendelssohn pieces in 1928 (Uruguay); and, 1929 (Switzerland) but it does seem he pretty much stopped playing Mendelssohn in concert at least in German speaking countries until much later.

    He did, hoever, play a series of concerts (6) with the dispossessed German Jew, Richard Tauber, in Britain in 1938 which was quite a bold move.

    My source: https://arrauhouse.org/content/chro_development.htm (lists his concerts chronologically).

    As a student, Arrau attended the Stern Academy (founded by Julius Stern) in Berlin and later headed by Friedrich Holländer (who was deported from Germany and killed in 1941.

    The Arrauhaus web site notes this:

    “From early 1937 to the moment Claudio Arrau left Germany not to return in May 1940, he and his sister Lucrecia – an employee of the Chilean Embassy in Berlin – had risked their skins by actively contributing to saving many lives and assets of German Jews, individuals and families, heading for England, the USA and elsewhere.

    In relation to Chile in particular, Arrau helped to facilitate the passage of psychiatrist Hubert Abrahamson, musicologist Rudi Lehmann, violinist Freddy (Alfredo) Wang, and many others. Lucrecia Arrau estimated that some 700 Jewish families were thus assisted to travel to Chile.

    A large number of members of the German Jewish community fleeing persecution and expecting transit to foreign countries used to be discretely accommodated at the Frankfurt estate of Mrs. Ruth Schneider-Arrau’s parents. Mr. Hans von Schneider and spouse Marta were industrialists whose important industrial assets were confiscated by the Nazi regime and earmarked for war machinery production.

    During these years, Arrau himself felt to be under suspicion, due to a circulating interpretation of his surname as being of Sephardic Jewish origin.”

    And this for 1939: “Increasingly concerned with the dramatic turns of events in Germany, Claudio Arrau decided to resign his Professorship with the Stern Conservatory of Berlin, a decision painfully taken in repudiation of the Nazi regime.

    The resignation was submitted in writing in February, following the inescapable peremptory formalities prevailing, under the pretext of an incoming, longer than usual overseas tour.

    This long-evolving decision turned into a must after Arrau became aware of the persistent persecution of at least two of his Jewish pupils, one of them being Karlrobert Kreiten, hanged later, in the early 1940s (despite the good offices of the renown, highly respected conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler).
    There was, likewise, the increasing intimidation suffered by Arrau’s wife, Ruth, under suspicions of her having Jewish relations.”

    AND for 1941: “On Friday 3rd January, on board of the Imperial motor vessel from the Chilean-South American Shipping Co., Claudio Arrau writes in Spanish to his beloved mother in Chile as follows [translated]:

    Dearest little thing,
    I’m on a voyage to try my luck in New York: I’m no longer going [back] to Europe. The trip has been very pleasant so far. A group of Chilean students are coming on board, all of them most likeable and intelligent. The heat is nearly unbearable!
    How has your health been? Has your stay in Viña [del Mar] made you feel well? How long are you staying there for? Any news about untie Celina and antie Carmela? Write to me via airmail to the Chilean Consulate in New York.
    I’m feeling well as usual – deeply concerned about how to take Ruth and the children out of that Nazi hell in Germany. The problem is made worse because all ships bound out of Europe are fully booked well in advance. Be it as it may, I’ll find out about all that in New York. I hope I will have you all over here soon.
    I’ll write to you again from Panama, dearest little thing.
    With all my heart, your son Claudio.

    [ Source: ‘Arrau, el Hombre y el Artista’, by Antonio Landauro, p.111. Impresoras Santa Cecilia, Santiago, Chile, 2002.
    From a collection of papers and letters in possession of Claudio Arrau’s Last Will executor, Mr. Agustín Arrau, in New York, at the time the material for the book was being sourced ].”

    [Source: Arrau family members in the 1960s]
    [Source: Le Monde, Paris, 11 June 1991]

    Source: https://arrauhouse.org/content/chro_development.htm (see 1939, 1941).

    I suspect that he pretty much pretended to be apolitical and lived for music which is in line with this quotation from him: “All I wanted was music,” Mr. Arrau once said of his early years. “I was even fed at the piano. “Otherwise, it seems, I wouldn’t eat. I used to play with my mouth open, and my mother put food in it.” (Source: Wikipedia). Otherwise, open opposition to the Nazis, whom he appeared to actually detest, could have resulted in harm to his family.

    As to his wife, moreover, the Arrauhaus Chronology website says this: “Ruth was born in Frankfurt on 23rd February 1908. There came to be an inlaw Jewish connection within her family.”
    https://arrauhouse.org/content/chro_development.htm

    • Emil Gilels says:

      In the interests of accuracy, it should be pointed out that Arrau’s student Karlrobert Kreiten was not Jewish. He was German, with Dutch citizenship. Of course his religion doesn’t make the story of his murder by the Nazis any less heartbreaking.
      A sample of his recordings can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYp-0pGyKDU .

  • fflambeau says:

    Note too that one of Arrau’s students, KarlRobert Kreiten, was executed by the Nazis in 1943. “Had he not been executed by the Nazis,’ wrote his teacher Claudio Arrau, “he would, no doubt, have taken his place as one of the greatest German pianists.” Source: https://holocaustmusic.ort.org/fr/politics-and-propaganda/karlrobert-kreiten/

    In short, Arrau was living in a Nazi hell and he knew and suffered for it; I suspect many Americans in 10 or 15 years will face the same questions for their attitude toward Trump. Even A. Faucci.

    • MezzoLover says:

      We Americans are not living in a Trump hell by any means. Yes it is a challenging time but we as a people are collectively coping, imperfectly, just like people in other parts of the world. Let’s not get carried away here.

      • Ludwig's Van says:

        Speak only for yourself, pal – we are certainly living in Trump-Hell. Never in our history have we experienced such a deranged “leader” along with his limitless supply of “best people” nincompoops who “advise” him.

        • Petros Linardos says:

          I can’t wait to see Trump be voted out of office, and few things would make me happier than seeing Nancy Pelosi finish out his term. But let’s get real: Trump hasn’t turned the USA into a new North Korea.

    • Nathaniel Rosen says:

      Please do not compare contemporary American politics to Nazi Germany. In your heart you must know that it is inapt.

    • Norman Olsfanger says:

      What a stupid comment to compare President Trump to Hitler; President Trump is very pro Israel and his daughter is Jewish as are his grandchildren.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      This kind of idiotic grandstanding, equating Trump to Hitler, really does you no credit.

      There is no reason to think that Trump will attempt to overturn the decision of the electorate by force if he loses the election. And it is unimagine-able that any attempt would be successful.

  • Ron Sawson says:

    I always felt it was a shame that Arrau died before doing the complete Bach keyboard works. His Goldberg is up there with Glenn Gould.

  • fliszt says:

    After Leonard Shure (a Jew, Schnabel’s pupil and assistant) left Germany in 1933, Arrau was the sole remaining king of young pianists within the Reich’s borders, and he commanded the full attention of the world’s most sophisticated audiences. That was hard to give up, and as a non Jew he thought he could withstand the situation (a la Furtwangler). But of course by 1940 with war being waged – plus his frequent foreign tours during which he acquired global perspective), he was convinced he had to leave.

    • Peter Mechen says:

      Merely another musician “tainted” by asociation (the list of otherwise “beloved” artists is an extremely long one!) with a regime whose philosophy was undoubtedly repellant and extreme, and therefore “infected” all who had anything to do with it, including those who attempted to “live” with it for whatever reasons, artistic, patriotic, family, or emotional connection. Who would pass judgement on these people, considering each one’s own unique and particular circumstance, without calling one’s own faults or skewed motivations in doing so, to account? – we all do our best; we are all human, and therefore guilty of being human…….

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    I was always troubled by his decision to live in Nazi Germany and only departing when things became dangerous. He was not even German.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Also Stravinsky continued to conduct in Germany in the thirties.

    • fliszt says:

      “He was not even German” – Well, please reconsider that statement: Arrau lived in Germany since age 11, so his most artistically formative years were spent in Germany, he was educated by German teachers, he married a German woman, his oldest 2 children were born in Germany, all his friends and students were either Germans or were German-trained. Thus, leaving Germany – no matter how bad things were – was not an easy decision: Germany was “home” to him. And where was he to go? Chile offered him no career prospects, Europe was falling apart, and his attempts to establish himself in America a decade earlier had been curiously unsuccessful. Of course he had no choice but return to America and try it again – but clearly he had deep misgivings about it, and only did so when he realized that there were no other options.

  • fflambeau says:

    Many people here are asking the wrong question. It is not correct to ask whether Arrau’s wife and/or her family was/were Jewish but whether Nazi officials of the time thought they were Jewish according to their warped “racial laws”: there’s a difference. Such doubts certainly existed about Fraulein Schneider and Arrau himself indicates this (see my long post) and that the Nazi officials thought his own name might indicate his own Sephardic Jewish background.

    Lots of people thought Hitler, R. Heydrich and Himmler, to name a few, were “Jewish” by Nazi racial laws. Note that one of Hitler’s leading biographers (Ian Kershaw), even deals with this question extensively (in a biography of 2 volumes and about 2 thousand pages) with regard to Hitler and comes up with an inclusive answer (in part because Nazi officials appear to have “sanitized” Hitler’s own background). That is also because Hitler’s fore bearers are to an extent unknown (especially on his father’s side).

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Umm, inter-marriage between Jews and non-Jews would have been very unusual before the 19th century. If none of Hitler etc. (great) grand-parents’ were Jewish, then it is rather unlikely that they had any more remote ancestors which made them Jewish under the Nazi racial rules. They may have had non-German ancestors in other ways, of course.

      • Tamino says:

        Hitler’s Jewish heritage doesn’t have to be from regular marriage. It would not have been the first time a maid was impregnated by her employer, his sons, or other employees.

  • Tully Potter says:

    I have him giving concerts in Berlin well into 1940. He always used to claim in interviews that he’d left before war broke out. Not so.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Good defenses of Arrau here. His case realls Edwin Fischer’s: both foreign studients of Martin Krause,– Fischer like Cortot was born and died in Switzerland. Fischer stayed in Berlin until his house was bombed in 1942, then went home to Basel.

    Among those who stayed were American Walter Rummel, Pole Raoul Koczalski, Kempff, Gieseking, Backhaus, Ney, Orff, Pfitzner, Heidigger, Guenther Grass, De Sabata, Mascagni, Boehm, Karajan, Krauss, Furtwaengler, Knappertsbusch, Huesch, Guenther Ramin, Schwarzkopf and many other singers including Hotter, and Fischer-Dieskau; R. Strauss despite his Jewish daughter-in-law,– the list is long, comprising mostly non-Jews. Some were quite young. Whole books are written about artists under Fascism in France, Italy, and Germany.

    Two of those who left, Adolf Busch, his brothers, and family’ and Thomas Mann, had Jewish family members, although often cited like Toscanini and Hindemith as leaving for other reasons, which they undoubtedly had. May we never face such dilemmas.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The case of R Straus is particularly worrying:

      http://subterraneanreview.blogspot.com/2018/10/strauss-and-nazis.html

      In my Cambridge days, when Alexander Goehr was the head of the music faculty, there was a strong taboo over Strauss’ music because he remained in Germany while Schoenberg had to flee. The music of both composers were seen through a political lens, so Schoenberg was the saint.

    • Tamino says:

      Oh snap. Fischer-Dieskau was 7 years old when the Nazis rose to power, 14 when the war broke out, and not yet 20 when it all ended. The self righteousness of armchair moralists is so pointless. Eclectic bunch of musicians above. All kinds of reasons. Last but not least most of them were Germans or Austrians and not really comfortable leaving their home country, despite the brown pest it was infected with for those few years. All are smarter in hindsight. Not all frogs in a pot with gradually heating water jump out in time. Afterwards all knew how hot it got.

  • fflambeau says:

    For me, this was decisive in coming to a determination that Claudio Arrau, while nominally apolitical, hated the Nazis and did things detrimental to them (and his career):

    Arrau appeared in six (6 !) programs with the German/Austrian Jew, Richard Tauber (considered by many second only to Caruso), driven out of Nazi Germany, in England of all places and less than a year before the war broke out, in late 1938! Tauber had been beaten up by some Nazis in 1933. Despite singing at the Met, Nazi propaganda leader called him a “schmalztenor” and led a campaign to drive him out of Nazi Germany.
    “(Judenlümmel, raus aus Deutschland!)”.

    The Nazis had withdrawn the Taubers’ passports and right of abode; this left the couple technically stateless.

    These concerts with Arrau and Tauber were:

    Sunday 27th November (1938) at the Liverpool Paramount Theatre
    – Monday 28th November at the Middlesbrough Town Hall
    – Tuesday 29th November at the Newcastle City Hall
    – Thursday 1st December at the Glasgow St. Andrews Hall
    – Saturday 3rd December at the Edinburgh Usher Hall, and
    – Sunday 4th December at the Manchester Paramount Theatre

    Certainly the Gestapo and Nazi Germany would have known of this. It was a ballsy move by Arrau.

    Sources:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Tauber
    https://arrauhouse.org/content/chro_development.htm
    https://forward.com/schmooze/147125/richard-tauber-a-mighty-not-schmaltzy-tenor/

    • fflambeau says:

      Interesting too that the posters advertising these 1938 concerts in the UK (just months before WWII began in Europe) listed Richard Tauber first and in much bigger letters than Claudio Arrau (who was listed 2nd on the posters). You can see the posters on the Internet (see links above). It was clear by this time that Nazi Germany and the U.K. would eventually go to war (in fact, one could argue that WWII had already begun in the Far East).

      Tauber was an international singing sensation (considered by many to be second only to Caruso). He was also a movie star. Despite his talents, he had been driven out of Nazi Germany as he was an Austrian Jew. He had been physically assaulted in Nazi Germany in 1932/33 by Nazi gangs. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels led the campaign against Tauber (meaning it was at the highest levels).

      So, Arrau’s action was not in his “best” professional interests. It took moxy to do this.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Prinz Tamino — I said some were quite young and did not moralise but stated facts. Fi-Di was 19-20 and a German soldier, not by choice, when taken prisoner in Italy near war’s end and ent to a POW camp, where he was soon singing Lieder for fellow prisoners and their American captors. Had I left him out, someone would have asked why.

    My very point was that countless artists were in Germany, France, Italy during WWII and pursuing etheir professions. It was their home. How could it be otherwise? Some are among those I like best, as musicians. I do not moralise. Perhaps you read what you expected to read. De calma. Sing “Dies Bildnis ist bezaubern Schoen.”

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